9 Ways To Identify Appetites From Cravings

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You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.”
- William Blake

How is it possible to attempt to listen to our body to pilot us in the area of diet, when it seems our body betrays us with cravings that make us uncomfortable or ill? This is because we often use food for other purposes rather than its intent - for pleasure and bodily nourishment. Lets look at some scenarios.

1) Distraction Eating

  • I've been taking care of baby for hours. He's grumpy, clingy and demanding and I feel an urge rising inside of me to snack on something, not because I'm hungry but it allows me a temporary escape and distraction from the situation. 
  • Maybe I'm at work, or a student studying and deep down I really don't want to deal with the task at hand so I grab that bag of chips as a convenient, albeit temporary escape. 

These are mechanical, distracted forms of eating that do not embody the real purpose of enjoyment and taste or the need of sustenance.   

2) Substitute Eating Instead of Engaging in More Meaningful Things in Life

  • Depressed people often end up eating constantly in an effort to stave off the feelings of depression. Eating is a primal source of solace and comfort, however no matter how much you eat it will never bring more love, nurture or acceptance into your life.

3) Motivational Eating

  • Adolescent boys in particular are encouraged to eat heartily so they will grow up big and strong. Maybe its to be a certain weight for a competitive sport. Thus they are trained to eat for motives that are really unrelated to hunger, rather more related to acceptance, being strong, making the grade. The real hunger is for unconditional acceptance, a hunger that food can never meet.

4) Displacement Eating

  • This is when you are not engaged in something, whether it is work or study, that is not in harmony with your soul's work. When you are absorbed in an exciting creative task you have no desire to escape it by snacking. 

5) Escapism Eating

  • Escapism and distraction from life is often at the root of overeating at meals. After the meal its back to life, and you may not want to go back to life. There is so much self-loathing and self-castigating when it comes to overeating that is misapplied. On most cases, the fundamental problem lies much deeper. Consider this good news...you are not as bad as you think you are. Overeating might be an indication that there is something wrong with your life, not that there is something intrinsically wrong with you. 

6) Addictive Eating

  • Food addiction is not purely a psychological one;  food substances and additives can account for physiological addiction mechanisms. Addictive foods include sugar, certain spices, vinegar, MSG and caffeine.  

7) Body's Authentic Need For A Specific Nutrient

  • Sometimes food cravings reflect the body's authentic need for a certain nutrient, but usually (especially in the case of junk food) the real need isn't for food at all.

8) Substitution Eating

  • Oftentimes food is just a substitute; sugar substitutes for life's sweetness; MSG for excitement and zest for life; excessive food for nourishment in general.  If you honestly listen to your body, you can distinguish between its genuine appetites and the psychological cravings we transfer to food. 

9) Deadened to Real Hunger

  • Constant snacking can really deaden a person from listening to their body's cues of real, genuine hunger. Try skipping a few snacks, maybe even a few meals and take the time to familiarize yourself with the physical and emotional aspects of that sensation, then eat slowly and with attention.

When you feel yourself craving for certain foods, ask yourself, ask your body, "Do you really want this? Do you really need this?" Now try visualizing the whole eating experience, before, during and especially after. What is the feeling of satisfaction like physically?  You will be able to sense where the desire is coming from. 

Learn how to breath between bites. The breath is bridge between mind and body.  The breath is an honest question. The breath allows you to enjoy your food, the flavors and textures of your food so much more than if you just shoveled it down. Allow your body to speak to you, it will speak the truth to you, you must trust the result your body tells you. 

As a society we are so quick to distract ourselves from any feeling of being uncomfortable - like overeating. We eat more till distraction, or go on to other diversions to anesthetize ourselves. We are so quick to medicate ourselves, we never fully integrate with the experience our actions have brought upon us.

In conclusion, if there is a true, body-based appetite, then every time you deny it, it gets stronger. If it's a superficial craving, not serving a genuine need, then every time you resist it, it gets weaker. We got where we are by not listening to and trusting our body. Now is the time for a change. 

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